There’s no debating that if you’re in the business of e-commerce and you want a list of new ways to increase product sales, participating in Google Shopping should be at the top of your options. It can be extremely profitable and an efficient channel, if done correctly. However, it can also be a very costly and short-lived endeavor, one that might get put on the shelf with “tested and failed marketing channels” if your data quality and feed aren’t optimized or accurate.
If you’re a smaller e-commerce company, this might be manageable in-house with the appropriate knowledge and a relatively low product (or SKU) count. But, if you’re a larger organization, and have a SKU count in the thousands, data quality, maintenance, and optimizations are key to staying approved and being competitive in the e-commerce silo that you’re in.
While there could be an exhaustive and seemingly endless list of what you can and should optimize within your feed and Google Merchant Center account(s), two initiatives should take priority over the rest:
- Data Freshness & Accuracy
- Accurate Pricing & Availability
The purpose of this article is to specifically help when looking to launch with Google Shopping, with most of the same points applicable on Bing as well.
Data = Understanding (Even to Search Engines)
Daniel Keys Moran once said, “You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” The same can be said of Google Shopping. While a company can have limitless funds and competitive market prices, if their data doesn’t draw in volume and customers, it’s all to the wayside.
The first mistake companies with new shopping accounts make is thinking that the data that comes directly from the content management system (CMS) is up-to-par with the rest of the world. The truth is, most companies cut corners on how they build out products from merchandising to web production. They simply are under the “faster to market, faster to consumer” model. While that is an acceptable business model when you sell directly to consumers on your site, it isn’t benefiting anyone when you venture out to the open market.
Frontloading as much data as possible at the very beginning of a product’s life within your company can significantly decrease headache and workload down the road. The first thing to look at is what type of good(s) your company sells and then to understand what needs to be brought to the table in regards to what the search engine expects. Since this post is focused mainly on Google, that’s what we’ll be referring to throughout the rest of this post. Below is what Google requires, what they are on the fence with, and what’s optional. (This is only part of the list; for the rest, click here.)
Accurate Pricing & Availability
There is nothing worse than putting in work upfront to build a quality feed, only to have it shut down because of infrequent file updates or product prices that don’t match between your feed and landing page.
There are a couple of ways to mitigate these issues:
Use Schema.org markups – Schema.org microdata helps your site communicate to the web; it can also pass along pricing and availability updates directly to Google’s Merchant Center. To set this up, you’ll need to “mark up” your data accordingly and enable pricing updates within the GMC interface.
Submit your feed after pricing updates are made on-site – If your site runs daily, weekly, or even monthly updates on products, always submit your feed after these changes have been published. For example, if your site updates every morning at 5 a.m., submit your feed no sooner than 5 a.m. If the site is updated throughout the day, remember to update your feed to Google at the same frequency.
Scheduled fetches – if your account is set up using scheduled fetches, make sure that the timing of these fetches is in sync with the updates on your website.
Ensuring that your data is up to date and as clean as possible keeps you active and approved on Google Shopping, which means your products will always be available to consumers looking to make purchases.
While this is just the beginning of what you can do to build a solid Shopping foundation, keeping these areas in the forefront of your on-going digital marketing strategy is key to ensuring that your Google Shopping is fundamentally sound from day 1.